Workbench top finish? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

 
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post #1 of 18 Old 09-22-2009, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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Workbench top finish?

I just completed building a workbench. The top is a sandwich of plywood and MDF covered with tongue and groove red oak flooring. The base cabinets I built out of birch plywood/popular and painted. The top is unfinished at the moment. It looks fantastic as is but I'm debating leaving it and just touching it up with a sander as needed or putting some sort of finish on it. If I do a finish it would have still allow me to do spot touch ups pretty easily. I've been considering paste finishing wax, linseed oil, tung oil, or either with the wax on top. I've also seen some "bar top" high gloss resin epoxy that looks nice, I'd expect would hold up, but is pricey and I'm not sure how easy it would be to fix. I do mostly general household improvements and woodworking so glue/paint/some chemical contact is possible. Id' likely still use another layer of protection when I was doing something like that tough. What would you guys suggest?
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post #2 of 18 Old 09-22-2009, 09:12 PM
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This is a common dilema

To keep the top looking good you'll need a protective cover of masonite or 1/4" plywood. If you don't, you'll end up with glue stains, paint, and chisel and plane marks.....what to do? I had to use my table saw top as a workbench in earlier times and made a plywood cover from 3/4". It had cleats to keep it located and from sliding around. You might consider the same idea. There are those that say "It's a work bench, it should look worked on" It all boils down to choice I guess. bill
BTW any slick surface finish oil, poly or other wise will make securing objects more difficult as when sanding or planing. Some times a layer of carpet runner with the backer side up works to keep things from sliding.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specfic. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo

Last edited by woodnthings; 09-23-2009 at 07:00 AM.
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post #3 of 18 Old 09-22-2009, 09:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ditto View Post
tung oil
That is what I finished mine with, tung oil. It repels glue drips (they scrape off easy when dry, heck or just flick them off with my finger) Easy to maintain, doesn't look bad marred up like a thick finish would. I just use a card scraper to fix any "problems" and slap some more tung oil in it. I finish many projects with tung oil and wax, so it doesn't matter if I get messy on the bench...just rub it in.
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post #4 of 18 Old 09-23-2009, 06:05 AM
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"protective cover of masonite"

My workbench is make of 2x6's with the masonite that Woodsnthings suggests as a top cover. If I get tired of how it looks it is simple to change covers.

George
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post #5 of 18 Old 09-26-2009, 12:51 AM
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post some pics. Some people like fine art but a nice work bench works for me.
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post #6 of 18 Old 09-28-2009, 04:14 AM Thread Starter
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Pictures attached

Here are some low quality pictures I took on my cell. I ended up using tung oil with a paste finish wax on top, pretty pleased with the results.
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post #7 of 18 Old 09-28-2009, 06:53 AM
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Holy Socks Batman!

Great job on the "work bench" ditto, looks more like my dentist's procedure room than a work space. I had something completely different in my mind when you said work bench. I was picturing a heavy duty bench with legs, vise attached etc. to pound, glue, sand paint on, so my suggestion wouldn't work for you. Nice job on the cabinets and mitered corners! bill

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specfic. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo
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post #8 of 18 Old 09-28-2009, 08:45 AM
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That looks super Ditto. Nice work.

Gerry
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post #9 of 18 Old 09-28-2009, 01:17 PM
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That is entirely tooooo Neat...

Great job. That looks better than my kitchen counters. Now where are you goinf to mount
your woodwormes vice..:)
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post #10 of 18 Old 09-28-2009, 03:41 PM
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That definitely looks better than my kitchen counters!

I threw this on my oak work top, just because I had the right amount left over from another project. Looks terrific (better than my kitchen, too ). Like Daren said, easy to clean up and the dings sand out for more finish.

http://www.formbys.com/products/tung_oil.cfm
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post #11 of 18 Old 10-10-2009, 02:19 PM
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I am a little concerned about the "sandwich" you made for your top. Plywood and MDF are both products that have virtually no expansion/contraction during changes in relative humidity. However, solid wood like tongue and groove red oak flooring will want to expand and contract during seasonal changes in humidity. This can cause serious problems in keeping the top flat. It will likely warp. Hopefully, it's location will be in an area of minimal moisture change.

That said, here are a couple of suggested treatments for a workbench top.

A film finish (lacquer, shellac, varnish, poly varnish) is not the way to finish a workbench top. A workbench is going to get dinged and film finishes will crack or craze or be otherwise damaged. Once a film finish is penetrated, it looses its effectiveness and adjacent areas begin to fail. No treatment is going to make a soft wood bench-top harder. I much favor a "in the wood finish". Here are two that lots of folks find effective.

First, is an boiled linseed oil and wax finish. Sand the surface to 180 grit. Mix paraffin or bees wax into heated boiled linseed oil. USE A DOUBLE BOILER TO HEAT THE OIL. The ratio is not critical but about 5-6 parts of boiled linseed oil in a double boiler with one part paraffin or beeswax shaved in. Take it off the stove. Thin this mixture about 50/50 with mineral spirits to make a heavy cream like liquid. Apply this mixture to the benchtop liberally and allow to set overnight. Do it again the next day and again the following day if the top continues to absorb it. After a final overnight, lightly scrape off any excess wax and buff. This finish will minimize the absorbsion of any water and you can use a damp rag to wipe up any glue excess. Dried glue will pop right off the surface. Renewal or repair is easy. Just use a scraper to remove and hardened stuff, wipe down with mineral spirits using a 3/0 steel wool pad (a non-woven green or gray abrasive pad is better), wipe off the gunk and apply another coat of mineral oil/wax mixture.

My personal preference is for an oil/varnish mixture treatment. Either use Minwax Tung Oil Finish, Minwax Antique oil or a homebrew of equal parts of boiled linseed oil, your favorite varnish or poly varnish and mineral spirits. Sand the benchtop up to 180 grit. Apply the mixture heavily and keep it wet for 15-30 minutes. Wipe off any excess completely. Let it dry overnight and the next day, apply another coat using a gray non-woven abrasive pad. Let it set and then wipe off any excess. Let this dry 48-72 hours. To prevent glue from sticking apply a coat of furniture paste wax and you're done. This treatment is somewhat more protective than the wax and mineral oil as the varnish component adds some protection from not only water both some other chemicals also. The waxing makes the surface a little more impervious to water so you can wipe up any liquid adhesive. It also allows hardened adhesive to be scraped off. Repair and renewal is easy. Just go throught the same scraping, wiping down with mineral spirits and reapplication of the BLO/varnish/mineral spirits mixture and an application of paste wax.

Both of the above treatments are quite protective but are easy to maintain and renew. They do not fail when the surface takes a ding.
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post #12 of 18 Old 07-30-2012, 04:41 PM
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Reviving this old post - hopefully someone has this on their watch list! I'm re-finishing a workbench I got from my work (they were throwing it out!) however, I'm just diving into wood working. It was suggested that I use a wood stripper to remove the finish that's on the surface and then sand down (180?) Do you guys recommend this approach? For the below surface, would the above types of finishing methods work (homebrews)

Any help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

David






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post #13 of 18 Old 07-30-2012, 04:47 PM
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A workbench takes such a beating I normally don't use any finish at all. I think if you are going to put a finish on it I would use an oil finish on it.
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post #14 of 18 Old 07-31-2012, 10:48 AM
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That is a sold looking bench. Stripper should remove the old finish quite easily, as it doesn't look very thick. Sanding after to prep for a finish should do it. You might want to use a filler to fill the joint lines before finishing.

I would tend to agree with Steve, in that a workbench will take a lot of pounding. A penetrating oil type finish would probably be the best option. The finish would be quite easily repaired if damaged. I finished mine with a satin Varathane, but I keep it covered with a clear vinyl sheet to prevent damage. Drawer faces could be finished the same, or done with a low sheen satin varathane or equivalent.

Gerry
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post #15 of 18 Old 07-31-2012, 11:04 AM
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I think you will find two schools of thought regarding workbenches - one school says to finish, and one school says to not finish.

You need to decide what is best for you. No right or wrong.

Have you ever seen benches used by craftmen?

I recently toured George Nakashima's place in New Hope, PA. The benches are the same as he used back in the 50's. No finish, nicks and cuts all over, especially the edges, some look like they were used for specific tasks.

This looks like maple. It has already seen some good use.

If you do finish, I would use oil like mineral oil. This would allow new applications without having to sand.
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post #16 of 18 Old 08-01-2012, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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Strip it, sand it, oil and wax it.

I went with tung oil and wax on mine. Spills, glues, etc clean up easily and it still looks almost the same as when I built it. I wish I had room for a roubo style bench and a dedicated assembly table but this works for the most part. If I need a good reference surface I use my cast iron table saw top.
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post #17 of 18 Old 08-20-2012, 04:25 PM
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Thanks for all the tips!

I've stripped it down, sanded it with 80 & used wood filler as suggested for the larger gaps. I'm now going to sand with 120 via belt sander and then 180 by hand.

I've included a picture of what I purchased to make the 3 part "homebrew" - all the right stuff? (BLO, Mineral Spirits & Varnish)

I also couldn't find the "non-woven grey abrasive pad at my local HD, nor did anyone there know what I was referring to - suggestions?

Thanks again for everyone's help - it's very much appreciated - will post pictures when complete!

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post #18 of 18 Old 10-10-2012, 08:45 AM
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The first cabinet looks pretty good. Furniture needs proper finishing to avoid certain scratches and damages. Min wax and tung oil can work better with the perfect finishing to the furniture.

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